On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Indictment No. 321-78.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Lisa and Baxter.
Defendant Edward Victor Robinson appeals from a July 2, 2009 order that denied his fourth petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). Defendant claims that his petition should not have been held to be procedurally barred because, at the time of his underlying non vult plea for murder, he was unaware of a potentially exculpatory ballistics report. We reject defendant's argument and affirm.
On November 8, 1978, defendant, then a juvenile, along with co-defendants James Green and Dwayne Michael Thomas, approached the automobile of Richard J. Wood, intending to rob him. Wood drove away from defendant, and defendant, using a stolen gun, shot at Wood's car, striking and killing him. After the incident, defendant informed Detective Raymond Clark of the Camden City Police Department that he had intended to shoot Wood.
Defendant was thereafter charged, under Indictment No. 321-78, with murder, armed murder, unlawful possession of a firearm, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, attempted robbery, and attempted armed robbery. The case was waived up from the juvenile court, and on December 20, 1978, defendant pled not guilty to the charges.
At a March 19, 1979 hearing before the Honorable Neil F. Deighan, defendant retracted his not guilty plea and pled non vult as to murder and guilty as to the remaining offenses listed in the indictment. At the plea hearing, Judge Deighan asked defendant if he was providing his plea voluntarily, if he understood the possible sentences for each offense, and if he was satisfied with the legal representation provided by his attorney. Defendant answered "yes" to each of these questions.
Defendant was subsequently sentenced to a term of life imprisonment on the murder charge.
In the years following his convictions and sentencing, defendant filed a direct appeal of his convictions and sentence, two writs of habeas corpus in United States District Court, and three petitions for PCR. Each of these actions, and their ensuing appeals, were unsuccessful.
On May 13, 2009, defendant filed his fourth petition for PCR, the denial of which is the subject of this appeal. Defendant argued that the ballistics report from the 1978 murder, which defendant had not seen prior to his non vult plea, was exculpatory*fn1 and that his plea was therefore involuntary and unknowing because it was entered without knowledge of the report's contents. Although defendant had not seen the report at the time of his plea, he admitted he was aware of its existence, noting the report "had been mentioned at [his] Juvenile Waiver Hearing on December 5, 1978 . . . ."
The Honorable Thomas A. Brown, Jr. denied defendant's petition in a letter opinion and corresponding order on July 2, 2009. The judge found that defendant's petition, which was filed approximately thirty years after his judgment of conviction, was time-barred pursuant to Rule 3:22-12(a) and defendant had "failed to plead sufficient justification to relax this limitation." The judge further found that defendant's petition was procedurally barred under Rule 3:22-4 because defendant failed to present any evidence to show that the claims in his petition, which had not been previously raised, could not have reasonably been raised in a prior proceeding. Additionally, Judge Brown found defendant's arguments to be substantively meritless as ...